Orphan Colours – All On Red
At the Helm Records – 26 January 2018
Having put ahab on indefinite hold, Stephen Llewellyn, Dave Burn and former bassist Graham Knight joined forces with ex-Noah & The Whale lead guitarist Fred Abbott and Danny & The Champions of the World drummer Steve Brooks. Now, three years and one EP later, they’re launching their debut album.
Taking its title from a gambling term, reflecting how Llewellyn has staked everything on this new project, the album features a collection of songs largely built around a theme of broken relationships, but with a more muscular feel than his previous outfit.
That’s certainly in evidence on the aptly titled Americana soul opener, Start Of Something, riding a wave of horns and slide guitar, swiftly reinforced by the equally optimistic punchy High Hopes, with its hefty power chords and soaring chorus, the brass returning to the lay down some whisky fumes over the organ fills and ringing guitars of Goodnight California.
They take things down a notch or two for the acoustic, strings and mandolin gentle lope of Loving Kind, one of five ballads alongside the organ introed shuffle Lonely, a strings-coated Sarah and the closing thoughts from the road Rambling Rose with what sounds like woodwinds at the start. And then there’s the six-minute Inside Out which starts with a gentle acoustic guitar note before cello arrives the number gradually swells to a fairly tumultuous big music climax.
Nevertheless, it’s the rockier numbers that do the heavy lifting, Waiting flirting with U2 arena rock epic grandeur as Brookes hold down the steady drum rhythm against the soaring guitars while, riding a Hammond groove, Sun Is Shining is another slow builder that draws powerfully on bluesy Southern rock and soul en route to the big guitar finish. Which just leaves Renegade, a guitar power chord and solid bass line, a mid-tempo Pettyesque number that sounds like it was designed for live show finale guaranteed to get the crowds on their feet and punching the air.
Through no fault of their own, neither ahab nor Noah & the Whale fulfilled the potential evident on their records, but with a groundswell of acclaim and awareness already building, this could indeed be the start of something beautiful.
‘All On Red’ is out now via At The Helm Records.